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Archive for March, 2011

Adaptation

Have you ever watched a movie and were just completed flabbergasted at how perfectly it expressed exactly where you are in your life right now?

Adaptation was a movie that I remember respecting as interesting and well-made when I first saw it, but not really connecting to it. But when I watched it again last night, from the opening lines I was stunned by how it seemed to be speaking my feelings, how it seemed to be showing me my experience of life right now. Not literally of course, but emotionally.

During the climax, Charlie says, “I don’t want to die, Donald. I’ve wasted my life, god I’ve wasted it.”

As I talked about recently, I don’t want to finally say hello to life only when it’s time to say goodbye.

And what causes me to “waste my life”? Thoughts that I’m no good and unlovable. And moments later in the film, Donald responds to that very issue:

“You are what you love, not what loves you.”

All of the love I’ve ever felt for others was my experience. Whether they loved me back or not does not change the fact that I got to experience the love I felt for them. But even as I write that, there’s a part of me that doesn’t believe it. And I think it has to do with my relationship to that love now. That love–because it is the past–is not a part of my experience right now. So I’m relating to a thought about love, not a feeling of love. It is the hollowness of the thought that is dissatisfying.

In the present, yes, I am the love that I feel. I am not the love that others may or may not feel for me. That is outside my experience of life, and therefore just as unreal to me as the past.

So the question is, what do I love right now?

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Loneliness and health

An article in the Feb. 26th issue of The Economist reports that loneliness is linked to inflammation.

It seems that lonely people have a strong immune response to bacteria, while gregarious people have a stronger immune response to viruses. Bacteria come from the environment, where as viruses come from other people, so the different immune responses make sense.

I’ve noticed symptoms of inflammation in my body, so this rings true for me.

I see just how important it is that I create a less isolated lifestyle, in addition to a less lonely mindset. It may be time for me to find a shared office space to work in.

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I spent 5 hours today sorting through a big box of CD-Rs, DVD-Rs, VHS, cassettes, mini-DV tapes, DATs (?), High-8 (??). This is a box of stuff I’ve had sitting on the floor of my bedroom for almost 2 years. It’s source material and back-up recordings of all of my various audio and video creative projects. I’ve wanted to go through it all to figure out what to keep, what to chuck, etc. And today I had a huge start.

Strangely, I did not feel very positive about the experience. There was of course the “high” of being productive and taking action on something I’ve tolerated for so long. But there was a dark side, too. My heart palpitations were intense for most of it. And at the end I felt a deep sadness, almost a depressed feeling.

Reflecting back, I’m not surprised. A lot of what I was doing today was saying goodbye. Goodbye to dreams I had of a career in music, a career in film. Goodbye to projects I started and will likely never finish.

And there were other goodbyes. One of the short films I made was a collaboration with my friend Scott who died a few years ago. So going through all of those tapes was like saying goodbye to him again. I found video of a friend who I used to be very close to and am not anymore, so I said a goodbye to that friendship and those special memories. And there was the CD of music I compiled for my mom’s memorial service. That was a tough one.

The lesson for me is in seeing just how uncomfortable I am with saying goodbye. That’s the whole reason this box of stuff exists in the first place. I’m hanging onto these mementos from the past, afraid to let go because…well let me be honest…because I don’t believe the future will be any good.

I am afraid I’m going to die before I “figure out” how to be happy. It’s silly, but most of our fears are pretty silly, aren’t they? I’m afraid I’m only going to appreciate life when I’ve reached the end of it. Scott used to tell me, “Don’t say hello when it’s time to say goodbye.

I want to say hello now. I want to say, “Hello, Now.”

This is my final post in these 100 Days of Peace. It’s been quite a journey, quite an experience. I don’t know what it means or what I got out of it. And I definitely don’t know where to go next. It seems trite to say that maybe we never know where we’re going until we get there, but maybe it’s true, too. And more importantly, maybe even when we get there we don’t know until we say goodbye to where we’ve come from and hello to where we are now.

Today’s report:

In bed at 10:04 PM! Meditated this morning. Did pushups. I intend to meditate this evening. Eating was a B.

The day bottomed out at a 1 out 10 after all of the sorting and decluttering, but I reached out to some friends this evening and was reinvigorated by their company. I had moments of a 7 or 8, and settled at a pretty even 5.

Goodbye.

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Day 99 (2011-03-20): Strength

Big insight just now as I was brushing my teeth: The “breakdown” that led to these 100 days was the inevitable result of “being strong” for so many people without considering my own needs.

Through my mom’s illness, I was strong for her. Through her illness and death, I was strong for my family. I was strong for a friend who was going through a very challenging year. I was strong for my clients as they confronted big challenges in their lives. And I was strong for…well, anyone who asked for help.

I built an identity out of being strong for others. In fact, a friend once asked me, “Who’s your Curtis?” How’s that for building an identity?

My mom’s death was the boulder that broke the camel’s back. It shook up probably every fundamental identity-supporting belief I had about myself and about life.

And wisely, I retreated from people. I didn’t know it at the time, but I can see it clearly now: These 100 days have been the start of a rebuilding process. Not rebuilding who I “am” — nothing has happened to my “am-ness.” It’s rebuilding my conceptual understanding of what “I am” even means.

In that way, I will no longer be strong FOR others. I will simply be strong when I’m strong, and not strong when I’m not strong. When I’m strong, others will benefit from that strength. When I’m not strong, I will benefit from the strength of others.

Today was a day I received the gift of strength from another. I spent a good chunk of the day with a friend who has an incredibly healing presence in life. Reflecting on the experience now, I see that I was like a man who was having trouble breathing. I wasn’t suffocating, but I was struggling. Very gradually over the course of the afternoon, it got easier and easier to breathe, until I suddenly realized I wasn’t struggling anymore. She never tried to “fix” me. She simply breathed light, peace, and love for me until I could breathe them myself.

That is strength.

Today’s report:

Okay, so I’m in bed by 10:30 tonight, which is much closer to my 10 PM target than I have been in awhile. I intend to meditate this evening, and tomorrow morning. I had intentional thoughts to meditate this morning and do pushups, but they went right out of my head as quickly as they came in. I’m finding there’s a momentum with intention: when I was in it, my intentions stayed with me throughout the day; now that I’ve been “out of it,” the intentions are fleeting. Time to get back in it.

Today was very good, a 7 out of 10, in large part due to the amount of time I shared with the friend I mentioned above.

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Day 98 (2011-03-19): Forgotten

Sometimes the vastness of life terrifies me. I desperately search for a story to explain it all to myself, but I can’t hold it all in my mind. So I feel stress and anxiety and even dread.

And yet my sensory experience of life is so simple and comfortable. Why is its voice so much quieter than the one in my head?

I realize that without consciously making the choice to do so, I’ve abandoned my daily intentions: meditations, pushups, 10 PM bedtime, conscious eating.

This terrifying lost feeling makes small actions like that seem futile, yet not grounding myself in those daily habits makes me feel even more lost. The words that tend to represent this feeling are “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Today’s report:

A 1 out of 10. I felt needy, lonely, inadequate, forgotten, and anxious for most of the day. I did connect with a friend and then with family, and I felt relatively present with them and therefore much more peaceful.

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I felt very sick all day until about 6 PM. I drank too much beer last night. At this point, for me, even just a few beers is getting to be too much. It really is poison to my system.

And as a result, I squandered the entire day. I didn’t get any real work done. I didn’t enjoy my time with my niece. It’s not worth it. So why do I drink? To shut my mind up. To break this pattern, I could really use a reliable alternative. Things that come to mind:

  • Singing
  • Playing guitar
  • Pushups / lifting weights
  • Meditation
  • Movies / television
  • Ping pong
  • Tennis
  • Video games
  • Skiing
  • Coaching

Maybe this would be a fun idea for my next 100-day experiment: finding sustainable habits for quieting my mind.

Today’s report:

A 1 out of 10, physically; a 4 out 10 emotionally. That’s interesting. The physical discomfort kept me from indulging a “poor me” story. The difference between pain, which is physical, and suffering, which is psychological.

No pushups, no meditation.

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I want to become a tester. I want that to be my story of who I am for a while. So instead of trying to figure out what’s going to happen or where I’m going in life, etc., I will:

  1. Identify what experience I want to have
  2. Create a strategy I think will produce that experience
  3. Test the strategy
  4. Evaluate and learn from my test
  5. Modify or duplicate
  6. Do all of this with a playful curiosity

I get the impression that Tim Ferriss approaches life this way. I will study him and his books.

Today’s report:

7 out of 10. Had a fun St. Patrick’s Day celebration with friends.

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